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Wolverine Watch: More Hills To Climb

Yanking five-star safeties back from Alabama on early signing day isn’t the entire solution for Michigan overcoming Ohio State.

It’s not a bad start, though.

U-M delivered Jim Harbaugh’s predicted signing day “fireworks” when safety Daxton Hill — who veered from an earlier commitment to Michigan to a brief dalliance with the devil in crimson — earned his wings.

Michigan fans ooohed and aaahed over those fireworks — which they should. Hill is a rare talent, who will challenge to bust into defensive coordinator Don Brown’s starting lineup as early as next fall.

As they say in the pyrotechnics business … Boom.

Still, someone who studies recruiting, and Michigan, like a medical researcher studies cellular biology, insists that the drive to get by the Buckeyes must involve more. The Fort’s Jim_S says Michigan needs to hit OSU in experienced talent waves to get back to even footing — and maybe beyond.

There is still work to do, he cautions, to reach the elite.

“We’re obviously not at that level now, but put it in perspective,” he said. “Where were we four years ago, when Harbaugh took over, or where were we four years before that, when [Brady] Hoke took over from RichRod [Rich Rodriguez]?

“It’s been a gradual process. We’ve had some hiccups. We’ve had our share of speed bumps, but it is progressing in the right direction. We’re at that level now where we’re not one of those four or five elite programs, the ones who are pretty much consistently expected to be in the playoffs or challenge for the playoffs and have regular top four to five recruiting classes.”

Those, he noted, include ‘Bama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma on the fringe. Joining that group is more important than ever, he insists.

In the playoff era, it’s no longer about rampaging through an actual 10-team Big Ten, winning a low-scoring showdown over Ohio State and making it to the Rose Bowl.

Playoff teams, he noted, stamp their own success for the future by instantly attracting athletes who want to play under the brightest spotlight possible. It’s also the opposite of the NFL, where the best teams draft last and those with the worst records get a shot at the top talent first.

So how does Michigan get a piece of that action? How do the Wolverines break through and become one of those programs consistently in or on the cusp of the playoffs?

One might argue they’re already close, given strong runs in 2016 and 2018. But four hours in Columbus this year made that a harder sell.

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